Ukraine Day 784: LIVE UPDATES BELOW.
Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.
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Vira Savchenko, sister of Nadiya, the Ukrainian military officer who was captured in Ukraine and illegally taken to Russia where she was jailed following a show trial last month, says that agreements on her sister’s return, made between the Ukrainian and Russian authorities, have been broken.
“While ‘politicians’ are forming a ‘coalition’, the agreements about the core European value – that of the human life have been thwarted! Poroshenko, Putin return Nadia to us!” Vira Savchenko wrote on her Facebook page on Monday.
In the comments to Interfax-Ukraine, she clarified that the arrangements for the release of her sister from a Russian prison have failed. “Yes, this is the information I have,” Vira Savchenko said citing her own sources.
She accused Ukrainian politicians of trying to use the current situation to gain more popularity, instead of taking real steps for her release.
“Because the first thing that needs to be done is to bring the person home, and then they can promote themselves. Bring her back and then you can show off and take selfies,” Vira Savchenko said.
Nadiya Savchenko is, her lawyer Nikolai Polozov reports, refusing to end her dry hunger strike.
He wrote on his Facebook page this afternoon, following a visit to her in jail, that her health has deteriorated and she now weighs a little less than 60 kilogrammes.
Having agreed to a blood test by Russian medics on Friday, Savchenko told Polozov that the results indicated that the level of clotting agents in her blood was four times above normal.
“As the doctors told her, her blood has turned into a resin, which is very difficult for her heart to pump and there is a great risk of blood clots and sudden death, literally in her sleep.”
Savchenko rejected requests from Russian doctors that she be hospitalised, but she did agree to receive intravenous injections of glucose and sodium chloride.
“She understands that intravenous support cannot continue for long – her veins are simply ‘burning up,’ but she still refuses to drink water or accept food.”
Read our summary of Savchenko’s trial here:
One civilian has been killed and two Ukrainian soldiers wounded in the Donbass, as heavy fighting continues, with Kiev reporting 64 attacks yesterday.
According to Vyacheslav Abroskin, the head of the Donetsk regional police, a civilian man, born in 1959, was shot dead this afternoon in the Ukrainian-held Marinka suburb, west of Donetsk, by an enemy sniper.
Earlier today, Colonel Andriy Lysenko, military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, announced that two soldiers had been wounded over the previous day.
Yesterday the European Union External Action Service issued a statement noting the “unprecedented level of violence” in Ukraine – the worst since the latest ceasefire deal came into effect at the end of August last year.
The significant increase of ceasefire violations in the Donetsk region represents an unprecedented level of violence since the sides recommitted to the ceasefire in 2015. We back the call by Special Representative of the Federal Government of Germany for the OSCE Chairmanship, Gernot Erler, and urge all sides to take steps to de-escalate the situation and to fully honour their commitments. A sustainable ceasefire is urgently needed, not least to ensure progress at last in implementing the political obligations from the Minsk agreements.The recent incidents of targeting the OSCE SMM monitors are unacceptable. We call on all sides to refrain from such actions.
Saturday, the Ukrainian military claimed, saw a record number for the year of 91 attacks.
According to this morning’s ATO Press Center report, Russian-backed fighters used mortars to attack Ukrainian positions on the outskirts of Avdeyevka, north of Donetsk, where the heaviest fire was directed at the industrial park to the southeast, near the highway junction with separatist-held Yasinovataya.
To the east, there was extensive mortar shelling of Ukrainian positions near Mayorsk and Luganskoye, near Gorlovka, and Troitskoye, on the western fringes of the Lugansk region.
In the south of the Donetsk region, the military reports the use of mortars in attacks near Talakovka, outside Mariupol, and Shirokino, on the coast. Ukrainian troops near Berdyanskoye, just west of Shirokino, were, the report claims, shelled 35 times by 122 mm self-propelled guns deployed near the separatist-held village of Sakhanka.
Meanwhile the governor of the Lugansk region, Georgiy Tuka, reported that Russian-backed fighters had shelled Stanitsa Luganskaya, northeast of the separatist-held regional capital, with 82 mm mortars.
In addition, the Ukrainian military reports attacks, conducted with anti-aircraft artillery, grenade launchers, machine guns or small arms, on positions near Marinka, Opytnoye, Peski, Verkhnetoretskoye, Zaytsevo, Novotroitskoye, Pavlopol and Stanitsa Luganskaya.
In turn, the ‘defense ministry’ of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) accused Ukrainian forces of having fired 275 shells in 42 attacks over 24 hours.
According to the DNR, Ukrainian troops shelled the northern outskirts of both Donetsk and Gorlovka, as well as the villages of Yelenovka and Novomaryevka near the Donetsk-Mariupol highway, and Kominternovo and Sakhanka, east of Mariupol.
The Ukrainian military claims meanwhile that their forces only “returned fire” seven times.
— Pierre Vaux
Vitaliy Kasko, who resigned as deputy Prosecutor General of Ukraine in February, complaining of systemic corruption, has been officially notified that he is under suspicion of corruption himself.
Kasko was outside the Ivan Franko theatre in Kiev last night when he found, in the words of his lawyer, Yevhen Hrushkovets, that the door of his car had been smeared with an “unidentified substance,” preventing him from opening it.
A group of men, introducing themselves as representatives of the Prosecutor General’s Office, approached Kasko and began reading him his notice of suspicion.
The Kyiv Post reports:
The notice was brought by Dmytro Stus, an investigator at the anti-corruption department supervised by Deputy Prosecutor General Yury Stolyarchuk.
Sergii Leshchenko, a critical member of the Bloc of President Petro Poroshenko, has argued that the department is effectively subordinated to the president and is overseen by influential Poroshenko allies Ihor Kononenko and Oleksandr Hranovsky.
Kasko is suspected of illegally receiving two apartments. Last month ex-Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin obtained a court order to seize Kasko’s apartment as part of the case.
Kasko said then that prosecutors had opened five criminal cases against him. He argued that the cases were Shokin’s revenge for Kasko’s criticism of his boss.
Today prosecutor Vladislav Kutsenko said that Kasko and other former employees of the Prosecutor’s Office would be investigated for other abuses of office.
He called on others not to “politicise” the case and added that “absolutely all prosecutors” will be checked for corruption and that “Mr Kasko is not some sort of exception.”
But Khatia Dekanoidze, the head of the new National Police force, wrote on her Facebook page that the move against Kasko is an act of “revenge by the old system.”
Dekanoidze said that the behaviour of the Prosecutor General’s Office indicated that it did not share the reformist and anti-corruption attitudes that are the basis of the new law enforcement system being constructed, and that it did not have any relation to the “future of the country.”
Arsen Avakov, the interior minister, has also weighed in:
Translation: I don’t know Kasko and I don’t know the content of the claims against him from the Prosecutor General’s Office, but this all looks like an ugly, vulgar settling of scores.
— Pierre Vaux
With the Ukrainian prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, announcing his intention to resign yesterday, nearly two months after President Petro Poroshenko first publicly called on him to do so, politicians in Kiev are manoeuvring to form the basis of a new government.
As we reported yesterday, Rada Speaker Volodymyr Groysman is widely presumed to be the most likely successor to Yatsenyuk.
Ukrainska Pravda reports today that Groysman, who is regarded as loyal to President Poroshenko and likely to ensure continuity rather than any drastic shift in political tone, appears confident:
“In the event that, as you said, a Groysman government is formed, the government will be public, effective, open and reformist. It will be able to stabilize the situation in the country, restart economic growth, rebuild effective work with international financial institutions, take care of farmers and miners and ordinary Ukrainians. These tasks must be fulfilled by the government.”
Groysman said that the integration of Ukraine into the European Union would remain the key aim of his government.
The online paper reports on possible candidates for the new Cabinet of Ministers, based on sources in government.
According to the report, Arsen Avakov and Vyacheslav Kyrylenko, both members of Yatsenyuk’s Popular Front party, are to remain as interior minister and minister for culture, along with the minister for youth and sport, Igor Zhdanov.
The Popular Front is reportedly proposing Liliya Hryvnevych, who was appointed chair of the Parliamentary Committee for Science and Education in 2014, to head the Ministry of Education.
For the economy minister’s post, a possible candidate is current deputy minister Yulia Kovaliv. At the beginning of March, when the finance minister, Natalie Jaresko, was in negotiations as a possible successor to Yatsenyuk, she proposed that Kovaliv would head the Ministry of Energy in her would-be Cabinet.
As for the post held by Jaresko herself, it is uncertain if the US-born minister, well-regarded as a reformer, would choose to stay on in a non-technocratic government under Groysman. While Ukrainska Pravda can not report on any candidates so far, they do rule out Slovak politician Ivan Mikloš, who was rumoured to be in consideration.
Dmytro Shymkiv, former CEO of Microsoft Ukraine and deputy head of the Presidential Administration, was another candidate proposed by Jaresko for her government. He has been proposed for the head of the Ministry of Health, but is reportedly uninterested in joining the new government.
The Ministry of Infrastructure may either remain under the control of the incumbent, Andriy Pyvovarsky, or go to Maksim Burbak, who headed the Ministry from February 27, 2014, until December of that year.
A possible candidate for the deputy prime minister for Euro-integration is Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, first deputy chair of the Rada Committee on Foreign Affairs and a member of Bloc Petro Poroshenko (BPP).
Finally, Mikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgian President and current governor of the Odessa region, has confirmed that he has been in negotiations with the Presidential Administration.
According to Ukrainska Pravda‘s sources, Saakashvili may be named as the head of the Administration, with current head Boris Lozhkin entering the Cabinet.
The other key appointment that will shape the future of Ukraine is the new Prosecutor General, to replace the widely-panned and discredited Viktor Shokin, who finally resigned just over a week ago.
Yuriy Lutsenko, head of the BPP faction in the Rada, told Liga.net this morning that President Poroshenko has begun consultations on candidates for the post.
Lutsenko himself told journalists that he would be open to taking up the vacancy were legislation that excludes him from consideration changed, but claimed that it was not something he was asking for or wanted.
The new Prosecutor General, Lutsenko said, must be someone from outside the prosecutorial system, to allow proper reforms rather than a reshuffle of internal personnel.
— Pierre Vaux